Ransomware, according to the FBI, is a type of malware that infects computers, usually through pop-up messages or email attachments, and denies users access to their files and data or threatens the permanent destruction of this information unless a ransom is paid. Last year alone, 2,453 complaints about ransomware were filed with the FBI, costing victims more than $24 million. Although this type of cyber-attack is nothing new, the health care industry is quickly becoming one of the most attractive targets to criminals.

Why is Health Care a Target?

In general, ransomware is emerging as a serious threat to many industries who possess large databases containing sensitive information. This includes financial institutions, school districts, and more recently, hospitals. Health care organizations possess enormous databases that hold extremely sensitive and valuable data. These systems cannot be offline and the possibility of losing the information found in these databases can hold serious repercussions for the organization. Because of the necessity to have 24/7 access to these files, hackers can demand a much higher ransom and these organizations can do nothing but pay what is necessary to have access again. Also, according to CNN, hospitals generally use technology that alerts them of an infection only after it has already occurred. At that point, the damage is done and the ransom must be paid.

Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center Loses $17,000 to Ransomware Attack

In February, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center was forced to pay $17,000 in bitcoins after a ransomware attack locked them out of critical computer systems, including emergency room systems. This attack was delivered via an infected email attachment that was clicked on by an employee. The systems were down for over a week, forcing the hospital to transport certain patients to other medical institutions and use telephones and fax machines to continue operating. This heavily impacted the staff and their ability to perform essential functions, which in turn impacted patients and the level of care they were able to receive during this ransomware attack. Allen Stefanek, president of the medical center, admitted they paid the ransom to obtain the decryption key because it was simply the quickest and most efficient way to restore systems.

Implications/Effects on Your Organization

Hackers are demanding ransoms be paid in bitcoin due to the anonymity it provides, which in turn makes it difficult to track them down following the attack. Social engineering tactics are increasingly improving, making it easier for hackers to access the information they desire. Ransomware attacks also have a high potential for hackers to make easy money and because of this, these types of attacks will continue to occur more frequently. Your organization will not only experience a disruption to operations, but can also suffer both financial and reputational losses along with a loss of sensitive information which can lead to further legal repercussions.

3 Steps to Ensure Your Organization Doesn’t Fall¬†Victim to Ransomware:

  1. Educate and train employees on proper computer etiquette. This includes creating strong passwords and knowing what types of links they should or should not be clicking on. This will be your most important line of defense.
  2. Create a plan that outlines how your organization will respond in the event of a ransomware attack. Identify responsibilities within the organization, and be sure to test plans before having to use them.
  3. Perform vulnerability and penetration tests of external and internal systems to identify gaps within your current systems. This will allow you to address any issues immediately.

Preparis offers a complete cybersecurity solution that can help your organization prepare for and respond to ransomware attacks. From customized plan development, to cybersecurity training, to a cybersecurity assessment, our solution provides a comprehensive approach to preparing for any type of cyber-attack. To learn more about how Preparis can help your organization with cybersecurity, click here.